Ilocos had been included in my “must-travel” list. It is located in the northern part of Luzon. It can be reached either by plane, bus or self driven car. If via air travel, it could take about an hour from Manila. If by land, it could take 9-10 hours, without traffic.
A group tour via land travel is one inexpensive way to explore Ilocos. We picked Esquieres Travel and Tours to arrange our 3D/2N tour in Ilocos. The package tour included :
– 2 nights accommodation in North Ridge Resort (with daily breakfast)
– round trip transfer from Manila to Ilocos and vice versa
– entrance fees on some sites
– driver and tour guide
Since there were 10 of us in a group, the rate we got was 3,800 per head. (For updated rates, please visit their website). The van we rode was a Toyota Hi-Ace Grandia, so it comfortably fit 10 people + 1 tour guide and driver.
We left Manila at 9 PM. We had several stops for pee break along the way. Since the journey was in the evening, we slept during the whole trip. It was already 6 AM when we arrived in Vigan. Thus, the excitement began.
Our first stop was the Hidden Garden. It housed a tropical garden as well as a coffee shop. This was where we took our breakfast and had our morning shower. It was a place full of potteries, sculptures and various plants.
|Plants and pots|
|One of the sculptures displayed|
|Homey dining area|
We then had a short drive to Baluarte. This 80-hectare land has a mini zoo where visitors can interact with animals.
The first thing we saw were ponies, ostriches, deer and goats, roaming around freely within the vicinity. We then took pictures with a macaw bird.
|Friendly macaw 🙂|
Guests can also ride a small carriage pulled by a pony for a fee. I and my husband didn’t ride it because we thought we might be too heavy for the pony. 🙂 We just took a picture of our friends.
We had a few pictures taken with the dinosaur sculptures. We also encountered a few roaming ponies eating grass around the area.
|The main landmark|
|Ahhh! A T Rex!|
|This little pony did not scamper away when we approached it.|
There was also a butterfly sanctuary.
|There were a lot of these winged creatures inside the sanctuary.|
We also took a photo-op with a Bengal tiger. It was just laying on a bench, with a chain around its neck. There were also caretakers on stand-by just in case the tiger got agitated. We hoped that it had eaten a full meal, so that it won’t see us as its breakfast for the day… Though, we kinda feel sorry for it, as it was not free to roam around, and it looked a bit bored.
|The majestic tiger|
Then, another photo-op with an albino snake. It was cold and clammy to touch. Hope it did not feel very stressed, with many people holding it for the entire day.
|You could feel it starting to curl around your body.|
We traveled about 2 hours to get to Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
We stopped by Juan Luna shrine. It was a renovated house that became a museum of Luna’s paintings, furniture and preserved possessions.
|The facade of the museum|
|Juan Luna’s palette|
Replicas of his famous paintings like Spoliarium, The Parisian Life and La Muerte de Cleopatra were displayed.
|La Muerte de Cleopatra|
|The Parisian Life|
Our next stop was Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Center. The late president was born in Ilocos, hence, this museum was built in his memory. His life’s work, possessions, and political paraphernalia were preserved here.
As I go through the things in display and read some of his speeches, I thought that he was indeed an intelligent person, inspite of being labeled as a corrupt dictator during his later years.
We also went inside the “mausoleum” where his body was preserved and can be viewed by the public. I don’t know if it was still the real thing, but it was a bit creepy. Picture taking was not allowed.
After taking our lunch, we made a brief stop in Paoay Church. It is the most famous of all churches located in Paoay. It is a beautiful baroque church. We clicked a few pictures.
|I liked the structure.|
We next went to Paoay Sand Dunes. This was the most fun of all the things we did during that day!
To explore the dessert, we hopped on to a 4×4 jeep. We all felt adventurous already in spite of the hot afternoon sun. What made the ride thrilling was how the driver expertly maneuvered the vehicle on the ups and downs of the sand dunes! It was freakin’ awesome! It was like riding a roller coaster!
After every screams of excitement, the ride became smooth and we got to appreciate the beautiful view.
We also got to slide or “surf” down the sand.
The entire trip lasted for an hour. It was really exhilarating
We next proceeded to Cape Bojeador. It used to be a lighthouse during the Spanish era. We climbed up a stairway to explore the area. Once we got to the top, the view of the sea was beautiful.
It was already late afternoon when we left. We decided to go to our resort, eat dinner and take a much needed rest.
(Second day adventure on my next post.)